Kova Impressions—Inklings of a Harsh, Beautiful World

Intriguing sci-fi exploration that’s more than elementary.

Game: Kova

Developer: Black Hive Media

Publisher: Black Hive Media

Reviewed: PC

Behind its curtain of dark, ambient music and unforgiving snowy plains, Kova is an RPG that wants to ask the difficult questions – are we alone in the universe? But its subtle nod at existentialism isn’t really obvious in the demo, where you’ve crash-landed on a foreign planet and must find materials to repair your ship with. Instead, it’s a platforming adventure with great gravity physics that add buoyancy to each leap, a battery powered space suit that constantly needs attention, and hostile reptilian hybrids eager for a pound of flesh. There’s a fleeting introduction with just enough substance to grab your attention: Collect elements, preserve your health, and boldly go where no man (or woman, in this case) has gone before.

At this stage, the user interface isn’t complete but still does the job: On the main screen Kova has you juggling between navigating the terrain and balancing health, batteries and bullets. An objective tracker watches over the completion of mini tasks in the menu, but the remaining tabs are more decorative in function since crafting isn’t unlocked and core abilities can’t be upgraded. Yet. Still, I found myself caught in Kova’s gravity, surprised at the relentless enemies but placated by the darkness, frustrated by the foreground art occasionally impeding my view but marvelling at how incredibly isolating it all felt, until much later, when a mysterious signal told me that perhaps I wasn’t alone after all.

There’s a lot of promise hidden within such a tiny capsule of content, but it all unfurls a bit slowly. Kova really blasts off in the the final few moments, where a quietly thrilling, ominous flash-forward hints at cybernetic nightmares to come, and leaves players with even more questions than when they started. It’s a storyline that’s genuinely left me hanging, clinging desperately to the clues distributed so far, and yearning for a resolution.

Kova is currently on kickstarter and has raised $11,077 out of its $28,000 USD funding goal at the time of this article.

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this preview.